Combating world view silos with random chance

I’ll be the first person to admit that I live in my own little silo of information. On all of my social media feeds, I regularly curate who I follow and don’t follow. If an account slowly morphs into topics that I’m not generally interested in, I unfollow them. If they change the type or format or frequency of content to something I don’t like, I unfollow them. Remember, your social media feed belongs to YOU and YOU get to decide what you like and read.

Add to that a second issue. Social networks have become really fond of giving you more of what you like. Since for many people it’s virtually impossible to read everything in your feed, the algorithms on each site watch and learn what you like and share and retweet and comment. If you like it, they show you more of it. At the same time, if you don’t like it, they show you less of it.

Combined, these two functions create massive silos of information. Because of my own choosing, and because of algorithms that I can’t control, my social media feeds have become inner looking, self-satisfying, personally confirming silos of back-patting ideas. It’s gotten harder and harder me to see the types of ideas that annoy and infuriate me. It skews my world and encourages me to believe that there are lots of people just like me, who have the same feelings, ideas, emotions, religious, political, and social concerns as me. The problem is that I don’t know if “people like me” are 1% of the population or 99% of the population. I have no sense for how skewed my ideas are because everyone I listen to is Just Like Me.

And that is where random chance comes into play. In the case of Twitter, it would be an interesting case study to incorporate into every person’s feed a random set of tweets sourced from among your follower’s Twitterstreams. Not the people you follow, but rather the people who follow you. Or, from the people who follow your followers. Those tweets are likely to be generally in line with the sorts of things you’re interested in but they would have a greater chance of bringing some external perspective into your world. It could work similarly in Facebook and LinkedIn as long the privacy settings were respected.

It can’t be worse than how the networks are currently curating our streams (please let me see my entire stream, not just what you think I want to see!) and, these days, it might be to our advantage to see and be more open to other people’s views.

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